Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Reflection on employers use of social media

Employer’s Use of Social Networking Sites

Millions of people are, nowadays, using social networking sites to connect with others and employers are using these sites as a source of background information on job applicants. Employers report making decisions not to hire people based on the information posted on social networking sites.

Despite the infancy of social networking sites, surveys by various entities over the last few years have found a growing trend of employers conducting online checks using social networking sites for information on job applicants. An employer can type an applicant’s name into a search engine such as Google to see what he or she finds. Some social networking sites allow Internet search engines to search the names of its users and make public profiles available. Some employers have their own Facebook accounts and may be able to see more than the public profiles, depending on the friends-of-friends links and privacy settings. In this way, an employer can get a quick ‘‘character’’ picture of an applicant, depending on what is available online (Campbell cited in Clark and Robers, 2010).
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Business leaders are increasingly investing in internal social networking platforms to spur informal or casual employee learning, to communicate programs or policies, or to build a sense of community among virtual employees. Private, cloud-based networking services such as Yammer, Chatter or Jive are supplementing or replacing e-mail, intranet sites or wikis in some organizations. They give employees an outlet to make collaborative decisions across distances, to share lessons learned or simply to feel more connected to colleagues. Employers gauge value from these networks by measuring whether they are achieving faster organizational problem-solving, more-efficient communication or cost-effective learning. Interactions on these networks can also offer advantages of scale, because the solution to one person's problem is visible to many (Zielinski 2012).

But what actually bothers employers while looking at our social media profiles?

They want to see memberships in professional organizations. Volunteering and charity work also work positively in your favor. If you have blogs or find articles about the industry you’re trying to break into, those are great posts. Be wary when posting overtly political, religious, or sensitive issues- you don’t want to engage in debates or offend anyone. As a recruiter for a staffing firm, you want to make sure your candidates put their best food forward. Caution them to take full use of all privacy settings. All sensitive content or doubtful pictures should be removed or hidden from view. Make sure to review all your social media profiles periodically to ensure the content is appropriate and is an asset rather than a liability (click here for more info).

Indeed, 44% of recruiters said that trashing an employer on social media is enough to land an applicant in the reject pile, according to a Corporate Executive Board study, in 2012, of 215 recruiters. Just 26% said they view a résumé typo the same way. Inappropriate language was considered unforgivable by 30% of those surveyed; 17% looked at excessive personal information that way.

Companies are also using social media to pick up on more subtle clues about job applicants' work styles. Pete Maulik, chief strategy officer at Fahrenheit 212, a New York-based innovation consulting firm, says he was close to hiring an "excellent" candidate last year when he decided to check the man's LinkedIn profile as a final precaution. That's when he realized the candidate probably wasn't a team player, he says (The Wall Street Journal Online, 2012).

"He took credit for everything short of splitting the atom," Mr. Maulik says. "Everything was, 'I did this.' He seemed like a lone wolf. He did everything himself."
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Another promising job applicant used his Twitter account to disparage just about every new innovation in the marketplace, he recalls. "It became clear he was much more comfortable as the critic than the collaborative creator," Mr. Maulik says.
The company didn't hire either candidate, he says.
Likewise, ProProfs, a California firm that specializes in online testing tools, was close to signing on a freelance writer when a LinkedIn check showed the candidate was freelancing for another company, says CEO Sameer Bhatia. The candidate confessed to omitting that detail, saying the existing employer had demanded exclusivity (The Wall Street Journal Online, 2012).
"We saw this as a sign of dishonesty and lack of loyalty," Mr. Bhatia says, adding that the company didn't hire the writer.

While some employers may be willing to overlook the occasional rowdy photo or off-color tweet, it goes without saying that any post linking a job candidate to illicit activity such as drinking and driving or illegal drugs, or to racist or sexist behavior, won't go over well.
Surprisingly, some job seekers have yet to absorb that message, recruiters say.
Max Drucker, CEO of Social Intelligence Corp., which screens job applicants on behalf of companies, estimates that 5% to 10% of Internet background checks for clients turn up red flags, even though each job candidate must give consent in order to be screened. "You cannot believe the stuff we see," he says. "You'd be surprised how many people still keep their Facebook profiles public."
What are hiring managers looking for on social media?

Hiring managers are using social media to evaluate candidates’ character and personality outside the confines of the traditional interview process. When asked why they use social networks to conduct background research, hiring managers stated the following:
· To see if the candidate presents himself/herself professionally – 65 percent
· To see if the candidate is a good fit for the company culture – 51 percent
· To learn more about the candidate’s qualifications – 45 percent
· To see if the candidate is well-rounded – 35 percent
· To look for reasons not to hire the candidate – 12 percent

However, some companies are reluctant to add social-media checks to their hiring process, saying they believe the negatives outweigh the positives. "It's very difficult to defend yourself when you reject a candidate," says Neil Sims, a managing director at executive search firm Boyden.

By going online, employers expose themselves to all kinds of information that cannot be legally considered in the hiring process, such as religion, race, gender and health status, says Social Intelligence's Mr. Drucker. Some factors could sway the employer, even if only subconsciously. It might be difficult for an employer to hire a pregnant woman, for example, knowing that she might soon take maternity leave, he says (The Wall Street Journal Online, 2012).

Still, with so much information available online these days, when it comes to social media screening, "employers are damned if they do, damned if they don't," Mr. Drucker says.

It is my firm belief, that companies and employers should stop spying on employees' social media profiles, except those of course that have initially been created for job-seeking purposes  (e.g. LinkedIn, glassdoor on Facebook). The data that is uploaded to each user's profile concerns only the individual that has upload it and his so-called "virtual friends". However, since we are now seeing the age of Digital Information, meaning that online data can be viewed by millions at the same time, all social media users should make themselves comfortable with the creation of private profiles and limited profile viewing options. All profiles should be private and accessible only to each user's "friends". On the other hand, employees should understand that depending on their position within the company they have to act accordingly. For example, a Senior Marketing Manager in a multinational company, should try and adapt solemn profiles in most of his social media accounts, especially if it is accessible to his colleagues. 

To sum up, I believe that it is unfair for employees to be judged because of their digital profiles. Employers will continue to do so, so all users should seek information on how to create private profiles, implement different visibility settings on different friend groups and on how to use social media to their advantage by allowing employers see the information they want to see.

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